A 3-pointer by Chase Carlson—his third right-wing bomb in four second-half attempts—had given Marion a 57-51 lead with just over four minutes left in the contest.
“We did not handle the final three minutes well at all—too many turnovers to beat a good team like that,” coach Rex Ostmeyer said.
“I felt like we played pretty well for the first 29 minutes of the ball game Friday night, and then especially in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter.”
An extended stoppage in play at that point contributed to the decline of the Warriors’ surge.
The Dragons—spurred by the antics of a vocal fan base relentlessly casting its team as the oppressed victims of biased officiating—regained momentum as Halstead coach Joe Gerber lobbied for the eligiblity of one of his junior varsity players, who was not permitted to play a sixth quarter in accordance with a state rule.
“We had the momentum at that point and the issue allowed Halstead to get fired up and they definitely took advantage of the emotion of the situation,” Ostmeyer said.
“But we just didn’t execute down the stretch. We only took one shot in the span, and gave up a couple of put-backs on the other end.
“But we played well up to that point against a really good team,” he added.
Calvin Jeffrey got the Marion rally going with a 2-point jumper. The senior guard knocked down another 2-pointer at 6:38, with Isaac Hett scoring on an offensive rebound in between.
Jeffrey then made it 50-50 at the foul line, and added a pair of free throws for a 52-50 Warrior lead a moment later.
Jeffrey extended it to 54-51 at the foul line, then set up Carlson’s big shot. Eric Vogel was fouled under the basket while the ball was in flight and made it 58-51 with a double-bonus free throw.
But the Warriors, hindered by foul trouble, faded down the stretch. Carlson—twice whistled for charging in the first half—was called for a pair of blocking fouls and fouled out with 1:24 left.
In between Carlson’s deadeye 3-pointer and his fifth foul, the Warriors were scathed by Dragon forward Tyler Ratzlaff and a pair of 3-point plays.
Taylor Glassco made a layup-and-one with 2:31 left, and Jared Regehr followed with another at 1:24. Marion trailed 64-60.
Elliot Hett stopped the bleeding with a fantastic steal-and-score layup, poking the ball away from Regehr and cutting the deficit back to 64-62.
On the ensuing inbounds play, the Marion full-court press resulted in a long outlet pass interception by Vogel.
A time out called to set up a play with 51 seconds left led to an anticlimactic Marion turnover, and the Dragons finished the game at the foul line.
The first quarter ended with the teams knotted at 12, and a 19-14 second quarter put Halstead in the driver’s seat at halftime. The Dragon’s stoked their lead to 50-43 through three quarters.
Jeffrey led all scorers with 19 points, including a 7-for-7 showing at the foul line. Isaac Hett totaled 12 and Carlson 11. Ratzlaff and Regehr each had 16 for Halstead.
Coming—Marion (6-10 overall, 3-4 league) faces two road games this weekend. The Warriors visit Collegiate (13-2, 6-0) Friday night, with the visit to Haven (2-12, 1-6) originally slated for Feb. 5 rescheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday. Marion played its home finale Tuesday night against Smoky Valley (7-8, 2-4).